- Massachusetts Department of Transportation
- Cannabis Control Commission
- Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles
Media Contact for Massachusetts Adding Cannabis Education to Driving School Curriculum
Jacquelyn Goddard, Director of Communications, MassDOT
Boston — The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), in partnership with members of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission and AAA Northeast today announced that as of January 2023, Massachusetts will be the first recreational-use cannabis state in the nation to adopt, “Shifting Gears: the Blunt Truth about Marijuana and Driving,” a AAA curriculum that educates teens on the risks of cannabis-impaired driving. The curriculum is taught through a 25-minute informative and easy to follow educational video that can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhQc8awkW8A. The announcement was made at the Worcester Registry of Motor Vehicles by Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Registrar of Motor Vehicles Colleen Ogilvie, Cannabis Control Commission Commissioner Kimberly Roy, AAA Northeast Vice President of Public & Government Affairs Mary Maguire, and Newton Chief of Police John Carmichael.
The current driver education module addressing impaired driving will be updated to include research-based information on cannabis, explaining how tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active chemical in marijuana, affects cognition, vision, reaction time, and perception of time and distance. This is the first generation of driver education students to be licensed since cannabis became legal in Massachusetts, and AAA research shows that impaired driving crashes may increase and continue to injure and kill motorists and their passengers. The Shifting Gears, cannabis-impaired driving curriculum, will be taught to approximately fifty-thousand young drivers per year in over 460 Massachusetts driving school locations.
“Adding information about cannabis to the Massachusetts’s Registry’s driver education class is important for the safety and wellbeing of teens that are just learning to drive,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The new cannabis instruction will help individuals make informed decisions and I am pleased that Massachusetts is leading in including it in driver education.”
“The new cannabis curriculum is an important addition to driver’s education in the Commonwealth and will help inform and educate new drivers of the inherent dangers of being cannabis-impaired while driving,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “The curriculum was collaboratively developed and reviewed by public and private stakeholders, academia, students and their peers to ensure that critical research-based information and safety messaging on cannabis was incorporated as a key component of all driver’s education to help reduce crashes and help keep all roadway users safe.”
“We are pleased to incorporate this new cannabis curriculum video into the RMV’s educational tools and resources that are currently available help new drivers learn about safety impacts, rules and responsibilities, and risks associated with operating motor vehicles on statewide roadways,” said Registrar of Motor Vehicles Colleen Ogilvie. “The video provides detailed information on affects cannabis use has on driving including impacts to an individual’s cognitive ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, delays in response time, attention and coordination issues, and the ability to drive straight or ‘track’ and underscores the importance making smart decisions when deciding to operate a vehicle or be a passenger in a vehicle in which the driver may be cannabis impaired.”
“Today’s young drivers in Massachusetts are the first generation to get behind the wheel since cannabis became legal in the state. Considering that, it is critically important they also understand how THC can impact the body including the risks associated from cannabis impaired driving,” said Cannabis Control Commission Commissioner Kimberly Roy. “With today’s announcement, Massachusetts takes the lead in prevention and increasing awareness around this issue by providing every driver’s education student a comprehensive, evidence-based cannabis-impaired driving information curriculum to help them understand those risks and make safe decisions.”
“Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety sheds light on the fact that in legalizing recreational marijuana, states face the consequential risk of increased cannabis-impaired driving,” said AAA Northeast President and CEO John Galvin. “As a countermeasure, AAA Northeast developed a curriculum to educate young drivers on how THC impacts driving abilities. We are happy to share this curriculum with the Commonwealth to ensure every new driver licensed in Massachusetts will be equipped with the facts.”
“Law enforcement across Massachusetts fully supports education and awareness as a preventative measure to enhance public safety, especially amongst our most vulnerable drivers, said Newton Chief of Police John Carmichael. “This comprehensive driver’s education curriculum will teach student drivers the risks associated with impaired driving with an added emphasis on how cannabis may cause a diminished capacity to operate their vehicle safely.”
The driver’s education module previously referenced alcohol and drugs overall, but going forward, the curriculum will include a section, Cannabis Impaired driving. In addition, the Implied Consent Law will be defined, and sanctions mentioned.
Massachusetts drivers’ education is managed by the RMV and requires all first-time drivers younger than 18 to complete 30 hours of classroom instruction and 12 hours of actual behind-the-wheel instruction and 6 hours of observation while another student is taking behind-the-wheel instruction before they can receive a full, Class D or Class M license. For more information, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/drivers-education-programs.
The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission is charged with regulating both the adult use and medical marijuana industries. The Commission was established by the ballot initiative approved by voters in November 2016 and in bipartisan legislation signed by Governor Charlie Baker in July 2017, consisting of one appointee each from the Governor, Treasurer and Attorney General, and two members to be agreed upon by the majority of those three constitutional officers. For more information: https://masscannabiscontrol.com/.